Belarus is going to extradite Jehovah’s Witness to Russia where he is at risk of criminal prosecution of religion

Яна Гончарова
3 April 2020

Russian member of the religious organisation Jehovah’s Witnesses has already spent 40 days under arrest in Belarus. Belarusian law-enforcement agencies consider extradition to Russia, where the activities of the organisation are declared as extremist. There he is to face trial and confinement for a period up to 15 years. 

Nikolai Makhalichev
Nikolai Makhalichev

Russian citizen Nikolay Makhalichev was detained on 21 February 2020 in Gorodok, in north-eastern Belarus. During his trip to Belarus, he was stopped for the identity check, and it turned out that he is on international Russia wanted list. Makhalichev declares that he did not even know that in January 2019 criminal case was raised on organising and financing the activities of an extremist organization against him. 

After the arrest, he was placed in Pre-Trial Detention Center Number 2 in Vitebsk  and materials on his case were requested from Russian law-enforcement agencies, based on which the General Prosecutor office of Belarus should make a decision about his extradition. The case documents have been received this week by the General Prosecutor office, and they will begin consideration and make a decision about extradition.  

Human rights organisation Human Constanta insists on non-extradition of Nikolay Makhalichev as he faces a real risk of unfounded criminal prosecution just for religion beleifs. The extradition of Nikolay Makhalichev violates both the International agreements and domestic law in the Republic of Belarus. Pursuant to article 17 of the law the Republic of Belarus of 4 January 2010 № 105-3 “About the legal status of the foreign citizens and stateless people”, for instance, foreign citizens may not be expelled from the territory of the Republic of Belarus to the foreign state where their life or freedom is under the threat owing to their race, religion, citizenship or political opinion…>. There are sufficient grounds for believing that in case of extradition of Nikolay Mikhalichev to Russia he is to be convicted and detained exclusively for his religious belief which is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Jehovah’s Witnesses were rated an extremist organisation in Russia in 2017. More than 100 members were convicted in different regions of Russia since then.

At the moment Nikolay Makhalichev is waiting for the decision of the General Prosecutor office in Pre-Trial Detention Center Number 2 in Vitebsk, and he applied for protection (asylum status)  in Belarus. In relation to the situation, we request full implementation of the legislation of the Republic of Belarus and implementation of all procedures for ensuring against violations of the rights of Nikolay Makhalichev.

On April 2, Amnesty International also launched an urgent action in order to support Nikolay Makhalichev and convince the Belarusian authorities not to extradite him to Russia.

Coordinator of the area of work with human rights of foreign citizens and stateless people in human rights organisation Human Constanta Enira Bronitskaya considers that Belarus should not extradite him to Russian,  “To allow the extradition the Prosecutor’s Office should assess if the prosecution of this person is criminally punishable in Belarus as it is in the country of his citizenship. In Belarus, the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses is not banned and all the more it is not considered as an extremist organisation here. Furthermore, we have only two offences which are considered as extremist  — creation and financing of an extremist formation, and it does not fully correspond to Russian offences. We hope that this will be enough to make the decision about his non-extradition. We had such case with Tajik citizen Farkhod Odinaev last year, he was accused of membership in an extremist organisation in his country. Belarus refused the extradition and then released him. After this, he moved safely to another country”.

If you want to support Nikolay Makhalichev, you can write to him: Pre-Trial Detention Center Number 2 210026, Vitebsk, 2 Gagarina str.

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